Robert Mapplethorpe is famous across the globe as one of the most outstanding artists of the end of the twentieth century. Since 1963, Robert started production of his own photos with Polaroid camera. This person remarkably used this camera for its own sake and profit. There are several famous art objects that have added popularity to this person, including two Self-Portraits made in 1980. It should be noted that within 1980s, Mapplethorpe succeeded to create numerous images in support of different classical aesthetic standards of human body and soul. With that, these photos are marked with stylized compositions of several women and male. In addition, his art objects are totally provocative based on which he gained popularity in such way (Tate, 2018).

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Robert Mapplethorpe And His “Self-Portrait” (1980)

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The creation of the self-portrait is linked to the intention of the author to develop identity and individuality. For sure, self-portrait is defined as one of the most complicated genres for artists due to the fact that it allows to other people to look at the private life of the author. In general, self-portrait goes in parallel with identity of the artist, his internal desire to conduct different experiments with numerous techniques. Looking at self-portrait of Robert Mapplethorpe, one may agree that it has mentioned elements. In particular, with use of the polaroid, the artist refers to the application and first experiments. Moreover, making self-portrait allowed to the author to interfere in the exploration of the photography. Besides, self-portrait of 1980 is different from his portrait made in 1988 with the fact that the later represents autobiography and responds to the question about actual side of the existence of the author on the Earth (Tate, 2018).

Robert takes on different roles with making his self-portraits. However, only 1980 attracts more attention from people than other objects. The work Self Portrait 1980 represents Robert as bad boy, while one should also look at the style of the creation of this work. Robert prefers to pose totally frontal so to show all his features of the face. In this work, Mapplethorpe did not know about his diagnosis with HIV. Hence, he just attempted to show to the people and beauty and the Devil are united. His work is a reflection of the culture prevailing in 1980s, where the actions of the young people were quite outrageous and misguiding for people (Tate, 2018).

In support of the discussion above, it is highly important to look at the origins of the self-portrait creation in 1980. The artist decides to blur his gender identity by putting dramatical make up. Therefore, the audience observes representation of archetype through juxtaposing. There are numerous traditional signs for a male and female that are included in the portrait. With this work, the artist places the question to the audience: whether are the notions of “male” and “female” too close or too different? (Guggenheim, 2018).

The work Self Portrait made in 1980 is also featured with perpetual chilling effect which is used to feature essence of the erotic objects in the figure. Based on this photograph and several other pieces, it is possible to race the fact that Mapplethorpe shows his boy fantasies, while provocative way of production of photos is appreciated by public. This way os doing photos brought success to the artist, when others did not even try to follow this way. With that, this work reveals special alter ego of the artist. In fact, there are different alter egos that are shown and presented from year to year in different works. Besides, Mapplethorpe was fond of appreciation of duality in this work and controversy of the issues (Tate, 2018).

Following this discussion, one may agree that Robert Mapplethorpe plays with complicated figures of self and cultural notions. Given the fact that self-portraits of the artist is the reflection of his mood, state of development and outcomes of the investigation, a photograph made in 1980 is the result of the examination of the concept of gender. Moreover, the artist was concerned with exploration of his personal identity. Through this photo, Mapplethorpe intended to challenge the essence of the concepts of «male» and «female». In addition, he pursued an intention to show that he was able to take on different shades and identities (, 2013).

Mapplethorpe explained his attitude to the preparation of self-portraits in a manner that he wished to transform consciousness of the people. By showing himself in female’s makeup, in girlish manner with certain level of flatness of the body, the artists wanted people to free their mind from perceptions and social limitations. This work shows the new dimension in the personal development of the artist where he focuses on the differentiation of the gender roles. This instrument allows his to shift focus from persona similarly to chameleon without fear of loss of the control, where the artists took on different identities. Furthermore, the artists undermined conventional attitudes of the community that were present at that time (, 2018).

As to the description of the composition of self-portrait, Mapplethorpe uses several types of acrogenous elements including make-up. In fact, makeup in this self-portrait serves the role of supplementary baffling element, while there is no reflection of self-consciousness or personal comparison with females. In addition, Mapplethorpe decides to stare at the camera with bare – chested look so to show his vulnerability to the world (Self-Portrait of the Artist, n.d.). In conclusion about style of the artists in the production of the photos, it is evident that that author is quite interested in the presentation of the issues of symmetry and beauty. He approaches to the creation of his art objects with relevant dignity and use of specific colour, composition and lighting. He is one of the photographers that shows that their works are the conclusions of specific timeframes devoted to the self-expression and investigation. Hence, Mapplethorpe will be remembered as a person challenging beauty and gender roles in the community. He will continue to be famous as traditional black and white photographer (The Art Story, 2018).

The work Self Portrait of 1980 is the outcome of the inspiration arising out of the intention of the author to make sculptures. Besides, this person is one of the most controversial figures in the modern art world. Experts in art objects still attempt to understand reasoning of the author for creation of specific art objects. However, it is better to look at the environment that affected the way of the production of the art objects. The state of the development of community influenced the decision of the author to refer to the use of several objects in maintenance of the beauty of males and females. Therefore, his self-portrait became a response to the moral issues that were discussed by other members of the community. Finally, it is clear that challenge of these notions was an integral part of his livelihood. This is reflected even in the way that the author did no shift to the use of the colour photography, while stayed loyal to black one.

  • (2013). New York – Robert Mapplethorpe: “Self Portraits” at Skarstedt Gallery, through June 15th 2013. [online] Available at: [Accessed 1 Jan. 2018].
  • (2018). Robert Mapplethorpe, Self Portraits. [online] Available at: [Accessed 1 Jan. 2018].
  • Guggenheim (2018). Self Portrait. [online] Guggenheim. Available at: [Accessed 1 Jan. 2018].
  • Self-Portrait of the Artist. (n.d.). The artist cross-dresses.. [online] Available at: [Accessed 1 Jan. 2018].
  • Tate (2018). ‘Self Portrait’, Robert Mapplethorpe, 1980, printed 1999 | Tate. [online] Tate. Available at: [Accessed 1 Jan. 2018].
  • The Art Story. (2018). Robert Mapplethorpe Biography, Art, and Analysis of Works. [online] Available at: [Accessed 1 Jan. 2018].